London Diary: None Of Us Are Going Quietly

Great Britain

Well, it’s been a pretty downbeat month, especially when I was informed a couple of weeks ago that my chemo didn’t take at all. Oddly the one part of the poisoning process that seemed to work perfectly well was the development of nasty side-effects, which have crippled me. The sole remaining option is a possible experimental treatment with a low chance of effectiveness, so I’m debating my options (Rock, meet Hard Place). As someone who has never bought a lottery ticket because of the obviously ridiculous odds, I frown upon irrational hope. In a non-grumpy way.

On Saturday the Guardian outed me in the interview by talking about cancer. The journalist, Suzi, an old and trusted friend of mine, warned me beforehand and we discussed the best way to do it – I think she did a great job. The sheer slipperiness of the whole thing is frustrating; I can’t travel and – at the moment – can barely walk or eat. I’m exhausted after 11:00am. Worst of all, I’m not creating. My thought processes seem clear enough (although they’re in turmoil) but the extra synaptic snap that encourages me to spin a ludicrous series of events from a simple sentence I’ve read in a paper isn’t there.

For example, I read this and immediately thought; they’ve missed a trick. After ‘Breaking A Man’s Arm’ it should read ‘Mating For Life’. They’re the only two things anyone knows about swans. But I’ve just read all the papers this morning and have not even been able to retain headlines and bullet points.

Nor have I been able to extrapolate potty story ideas from them, and I speak as someone who just watched ‘Black Widow’, in which tiny slender women with no super powers kick down steel doors and throw themselves off tall buildings assuming they won’t die, thanks to some nebulous concept of sisterhood. I loved it. Anyone who’s seen it will appreciate this visual joke.

Seriously now. My fear is that ‘recharging the batteries’ (ie lying about doing nada) will coast me downhill faster than hopeless attempts to energise the brain/body. Needless to say, such conundrums (conundra? conundrae?) are not covered under the NHS instruction manual on cancer. I’m joking, there IS no instruction manual or help of any kind at the moment, although there are plenty of non-specific websites. The NHS system is stripped back and struggling. Plus, I’m allergic to the idea of therapy.

Something else nobody mentions; cancer physically ages you – joints, dry liverish skin, nervous system problems, hair loss etc.  So, in these sargasso days I drift…too cold to go out (the UK is experiencing its coldest summer ever) and too antsy to settle.

Outside le tout UK is gearing up for the UEFA final by taking the traditional British approach, ie getting blind drunk eight hours before the match and missing it. Outside, men are bellowing like lonely cows and women are making noises like sea lions being strangled. Pub etiquette has flown out of the window so I may be forced to don earplugs. As far as we’re concerned here in Fowler Towers, a cup final is a perfect time to try for dinner reservations at Barrafina. And while I’m thrilled that so many people are excited about tonight, may I just point something out to the drinkers opposite my kitchen?

You scream when you’re pushed off a boat.

You scream when you fall out of a plane.

You don’t scream when the waiter brings another bottle of wine.

For now I’m still here up here and seated at the blog, but rather than be a bore about it I’ll stop these pages when they get too dull. I was going to end with a Shakespeare quote but decided on the immortal Grandpa Simpson; 

‘When I die I want to go peacefully in my sleep, not screaming like the passengers in my car.’


35 comments on “London Diary: None Of Us Are Going Quietly”

  1. Dan says:

    As a schoolboy on a rare trip to London from the wilds of Devon I was very excited to find a copy of the then newly-published Roofworld (Fear magazine had got me hyped for it, remember that?) in the Fantasy Inn on Charing Cross Road (as Marti diBergi said, don’t bother looking for it, it’s not there anymore) and over the moon to find out that it was signed! I’ve stayed on the bus ever since, and think I’ve read everything bar the latest Bryant & May, which I am simultaneously desparate for and dreading. Please know you are appreciated.

  2. Peter+T says:

    Football is something that I know little about, in which I have no great interest, but seem to be able to talk about at length in a philosophical sort of way, especially with Italian friends and acquaintances. Football does seem to be a reflection or metaphor of life in general. I’ve been explaining that the result of one game depends as much on luck and persistence as ability, that unlikely long shots can pay off. Hopefully, whichever way it goes, they will take the result less seriously, appreciate any beauty in the game and take home any lessons it offers.

    Chris, we all love you.

  3. Stu-I-Am says:

    ‘Irrational hope’ is an oxymoron. And you probably have never been irrational for more than a few minutes. Please do not fall victim to the “nocebo effect.” Words usually ring hollow at times like these; I know from personal experience. But hope is not the same as wishful thinking. If there is even a chance the experimental treatment can work, grab that chance. ‘Do not go gentle into that good night.’

  4. Stu-I-Am says:

    To paraphrase Christopher Fowler: ‘At Wembley no one can hear you scream.’

  5. Roger says:

    “The sole remaining option is a possible experimental treatment with a low chance of effectiveness”

    A doctor I knew said that the time to despair was when a doctor offered something like that and asked you to sign a nomination for the Nobel Prize for Medicine at the same time.

  6. Jo W says:

    Oh Chris, no words of my own to offer, just another virtual hug.

  7. Brian says:

    Well, Roger, that’s cheered us all up immensely.

  8. Jan says:

    Keep debating your options. You’re not done yet. X

  9. Peter+T says:

    My experience of several years of chronic urticaria, which is by no means life threatening, but extremely miserable, is to keep trying things from the world of conventional medicine and even some unconventional that are not too stupid. The medics think the immunosuppressant that they’ve been injecting has suddenly started to work, I suspect it’s the liquid curcumin that I heard from an eccentric on the internet. Who cares? The symptoms have gone.

    Now, don’t get me started on wingbacks.

  10. Jane says:

    Just read the Guardian article here in cold Melbourne and I am devastated for you, as we say here in Australia: fuck cancer. It’s a shitty terrifying final act and I hope you have fantastic drugs to at least ease the physical pain.

  11. John Griffin says:

    You’re a hero, albeit from your own admission, an unlikely one. Keep fighting.

  12. Vic says:

    It reads a bit like one of your stories – Soho Blackish.

    No words only deeply heartfelt thoughts.

  13. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    Disclaimer: You should of course listen to your own doctors, not random strangers off the internet.
    I’m not trying to influence your decision. The plural of anecdote is not data.

    When I was a student, my haematology textbook said that you shouldn’t treat childhood blood cancers with steroids (the only available treatment) because it just gave false hope to the parents.
    Ten years later, a family member developed said disease and failed to respond to standard treatments ( not just steroids by this point.) They were given a 15 % chance of remission with second line treatment, or an experimental treatment.
    They went for the experimental treatment, and are still around 30 years later. The experimental treatment is one of the standard treatments now.

    Best wishes to you whatever you decide.

  14. Richard says:

    “I’ll stop these pages when they get too dull.” As we all know, Chris, you’re pathologically incapable of being dull.

  15. Liz+Thompson says:

    Best wishes, Chris. I thought the Guardian article was a good one.

  16. SteveB says:

    When I die I want to go peacefully in my sleep, not screaming like the passengers in my car.’
    That’s a Bob Monkhouse joke originally I think

  17. SteveB says:

    By the way, that was the first time I learnt your husband’s name (Pete) he was always this mysterious background oresence till now!!!

  18. Stu-I-Am says:

    @admin I’m pretty certain your oncologist or someone on their staff has addressed the loss of appetite issue, if only in passing as one of the side effects of chemo but, if you haven’t already done, you might want to consider several aids in that regard. Of course, I am not officially qualified to make any recommendations, but let’s just say I am personally aware of the possible benefits.

    First there are several vitamins, minerals and herbs that can act as appetite stimulants. For example, garden variety bitters (Angostura, Peychaud’s ) have been shown to help in some cases. I would think about a nutritional therapist or even a Naturopathic Doctor (ND), the latter possibly being helpful in general. One in Central London (close to St James Park, Victoria and Westminster ) is Help2HelpYourself whose principal has very good credentials. Don’t automatically discount acupuncture and the other ‘alternative’ approaches practiced here and in similar clinics as ‘airy-fairy.’

    On the self-help front, there are, of course easy-to-swallow, palatable high calorie and protein drinks like smoothies and milkshakes you can make yourself (again, if you aren’t already doing so). Widely available are also the ready-made liquid food supplements. These contain all the nutrients to replace a meal (but a distant second place, I would hazard as guess, to the pleasure of eating tapas at Barrafina). They come as milk-based and fruit-based versions and while expensive, can be prescribed. You may know about all of the above, but the point is we selfishly want you to get that ‘extra synaptic snap’ back so start ingesting and feel better.

  19. Roger says:

    “When I die I want to go suddenly of a heart attack like my father, not screaming and panicking like the passengers in his aircraft’ was an old pilots’ version, certainly before the Simpsons.

  20. joel says:

    the whole “pose” topic in black widow cracked me up…and i very much enjoyed the movie…ridiculousness and absurdity keep my day light, or lighter…even if i myself am unable to instigate it…sometimes i just have to sit back and enjoy others foibles…and try to remember them so i can tell my two co-workers…so in the immortal (to me) words of my friend siobhan, “twirl pearl!!!”

  21. Helen+Martin says:

    There is always the appetite stimulant that was prescribed for my Grandmother-in-law – a small glass of Guinness before dinner and I don’t think you’d have her problem with it. She was teetotal and would not allow her daughter (50 years old) to enter a liquor store so my father-in-law had to buy it by the half dozen (in the little 6 oz bottles) and bring them into the house in a pop bottle carrier disguised with brown paper. “Appetite stimulant always reminds me of those brown paper carriers. We still have a few of the little bottles and used to use them for small size root beer back when we made it.
    What does Pete say to all this?

  22. Helen+Martin says:

    Oh, and Italy beat England last night. Toronto and Vancouver went wild. I just sighed. Diving across the grass backward to get a foot on the ball just looks silly to me and leaves you in the position of instigating a foul by an opposing player. Sorry, I do occasionally watch soccer and have even played.

  23. Michelle Burton says:

    Just viewing your website and reading your blog comments for the first time. On Wednesday, I’m facilitating your first Bryant and May novel, Full Dark House. The Trilogy Mystery Book Club has apparently never read anything by you until now. As a new member and being part of the coincidental in-person planning meeting for the club since lifting of pandemic restrictions, I offered a few of your books as options. Since you were a new author for them, they took the bait and we shall see. Take care and don’t let any of the C’s (e.g., cancer and COVID) interrupt your writing, just bring them along for the ride.

  24. admin says:

    I like the idea that they ‘took the bait’ as if it was a gateway drug! FDH is the odd-book-out, of course, but I hope it lures one or two of them back.

  25. Rich says:

    FDH may be the odd-book out, but it’s a fantastic read. Best wishes to you Chris.

  26. Lisa+Q. says:

    Sigh. I hope you do what you feel is best. Should it be experimental, great. Seems a very Bryant thing to try. We’re rooting for you, Christopher!

  27. Ed+DesCamp says:

    Chris – I think I mentioned somewhere in this blog that we lost our eldest son a few years back, after a long fight against leukemia. I know that if he were still here, his odds would be better, as the RNA and DNA based drugs are showing great results. May you find your cure soon, and may you be able to control your pain.
    All the best.

  28. Bill Gottfried says:

    Chris read the Guardian article and confirmed with friends in England. Your next step action must be yours and Perez’s and I am sure you have had this talk. As a physician I buy into experimental therapies if the side effects are tolerable. We wish the very best for you- comfort and lack of pain. We look forward to more from your pen and we send our love and support. Toby and Bill Gottfried from California and CrimeFest

  29. John Howard says:

    I think the very first comment from Dan said it most succinctly and the best. So, as Peter Tinniswood may have said… “Think on lad.”

  30. Debra says:

    Just want you to know how much your Bryant and May books are loved and that we have successfully enticed others with their charms. The new book does present a dilemma though – great a new book, boo the end – I will get it though, it will be read and there will be tears. I also wanted you to know that The Sand Men is a fantastic glad you wrote it. Take care Chris. Enjoy the good days, roll with the bad and do whatever you have or need to do. Hugs xx

  31. linda+ayres says:

    So hard to add anything to the comments. I will just say thank you for all the reading pleasure you have given us. I have everything crossed that something will turn up. In the end everything worked out for Micawber so you never know.

  32. Keith says:

    Hi Christopher,
    Are you getting bouts of immunotherapy mixed with chemo tablets or doing radiotherapy. I have nephropathy, affecting my hands, feet (burning) and very dry eyes which affect my reading. I’m now on my 30th or so cure… not really a cure is it, because you’ll never be cured.
    I feel for you, it’s hard, but try and enjoy the days when you can… cannabis oil with TLC does help a little, at least as pain relief.
    All the very best.

  33. Terrie Chrones says:

    Oh my. I just got the most recent and last Bryant and May. And London as a character. I’m so thankful for your wit, elan’ and fortitude. Drink the best wine and keep on keeping on.

  34. Brenda says:

    Have just finushed Part One of London Bridge is Falling Down as was delivered to me a day before publication date (hurray!). Oooo, I love it!
    I have lent my copy of Film Freak to a friend who worked for Paul Raymond way back when as he might recognise bits of Soho described in the book. He is loving it. Yes I love Bryant and May however, my favorite of your output is your two volumes of memoirs. Such a gift to me to know a little about you from them-you come across as a fine man indeed.
    I read the Guardian article. Sending BIG good wishes, Chris. from your fan Brenda

  35. Harwell Wells says:

    A first-time commenter here; I discovered the Bryant and May books during COVID and have now read the first 12. Your work brought great joy during an awful year. Im sorry to hear of your illness and wish you all the best.

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